About a year ago, my friend, Elna, wrote a book review that piqued my interest. Based on that review, I added A Royal Experiment (titled differently in the UK) by Janice Hadlow to my “to read” list this year and purchased it on Amazon with some Christmas money. It was indeed a great read, and I am happy to recommend it to you. Elna’s review is excellent. I encourage you to read it.
This book is about the private lives of King George III and his children. King George was the “tyrant” to which Jefferson referred in the Declaration of Independence, and my love of American history naturally traces back to English history. This book clocks in at 617 pages – not counting the notes, etc. It was lengthy, but Ms. Hadlow is an excellent storyteller and the book is enthralling. I read it in about five weeks – with a brief pause to read two other books.
King George’s father, King George II, was not a good husband or father, nor was his father before him. Their families would have made perfect guests on one of today’s talk shows. King George III learned from the mistakes of his parents and desperately wanted to have a happy, normal family of his own. Therefore, when he chose to marry Charlotte, he did so with the plan of remaining faithful to her, even though they had barely known each other before their arranged marriage took place. They made a good team, each striving to make their home a happy one. They worked together to give their thirteen children a proper education. King George did the unthinkable in his day – he would get on the floor and play with his children!
The thing that struck me most was the fact that even though King George did his best to behave himself, to live uprightly, it was not enough. His boys grew up to be serial philanderers and adulterers. King George IV made known to all that he had a mistress and would not part with her even after his marriage to his bride, Caroline. Naturally, they soon separated and remained so permanently, dragging their only daughter, King George’s granddaughter, through much sorrow in the process. Meanwhile, George’s daughters struggled in their roles, wanting to marry, but having difficulty finding the right man. Several of them led lonely, unhappy lives. Others found love late in life, but it was not the love that they had hoped for. Scandal plagued the family when Sophia, one of the younger daughters, bore a child out of wedlock. And ultimately, the insanity that claimed King George’s mind also revealed his own adulterous appetites.
The lives of King George and Charlotte reminded me of the passage in Matthew 12 and Luke 11, where Jesus says that the unclean spirit leaves a man, then returns later find the house swept and garnished, and brings seven other spirits with him. No matter how much “reform” we put upon ourselves, no matter how many rules we establish in our personal lives, only Christ can make a true difference. Do people benefit from moral living? Of course they do, King George and Charlotte did enjoy benefits from living according to biblical principles, but only the power of Gospel can change hearts. In our own power, we can only be good for so long before something slips. In King George’s case, it was his mind that left him, something he definitely had no control over.
If I had ever entertained any delusions of grandeur about the Royal family, I do no longer. This book shatters the image that royalty has it all. In fact, I pity them. I am very glad to be just an average American.
The secret to having a happy family is really no secret: it is by God’s grace alone.
Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. ~ Psalm 127:1
One thought on “My Book Bag: A Royal Experiment”
Superb review, Valerie. I especially love the latter part how you lifted up the name of the Lord . . . the only One that has the power to change the hearts and lives of people. Even if King George and Queen Caroline were considered ‘morally upright’ (they both were Protestants), I don’t believe they were Christians. The new BBC documentary “George III The Genius of the Mad King” reveals the character of the man (as a monarch, husband and father), and I was immensely impressed by his intensely inquisitive mind — based on all of his personal correspondence (locked for over 300 years and recently been read and digitised by a group of scholars commissioned by the Queen). I’ve been fascinated by the Hanoverians after reading this book, and while watching the film last week, I couldn’t help but cry when a historian was reading Queen Caroline’s handwritten note to the nanny of her son Alfred who died only under 2 years of age; a lock of hair of the little prince was included in the letter by the queen as a little ‘souvenir’ for the nanny to keep. 😦 Indeed the royals, despite the pomp, ceremony, and all the trappings of monarchy/aristocracy, are just like any family, they go through some very tragic personal experience (not to mention sinful and need Christ just like you and me). Btw, thank you for making mention of my name and blog. Greatly appreciated. Btw, here’s the link to the Royal Archive where you can read documents about the Hanoverians including of course, personal correspondence of George III, Queen Caroline and their children. http://gpp.royalcollection.org.uk/GetMultimedia.ashx?db=Catalog&type=default&fname=GEO_MAIN_54227-54232.pdf